Thursday, 28th January 2021

This Month's Magazine


An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed or maimed by landmines every year. TB claims the lives of 1.5 million people each year.

We are all so preoccupied with our daily problems that we just do not hear or pay attention to the various calamities that affect our human race. Some are natural but  any are manmade and administered by the unscrupulous members of our own race.

There are still many millions of active landmines in more than 60 countries causing life-threatening accidents. Most of the landmines’ victims are children, for example  n Cambodia they account for 50% of the casualties, in Somalia they are state to be 55%. As many as 85% of these children die before reaching a hospital, the rest are maimed, blinded or disfigured.

This is where our HeroRats are estimated to have saved the lives of over one million mine explosion casualties last year and another 16,000 TB victims.

HOW? You might ask. Can a rat do this?

This is a Gambian pouched rat breed  almost 3 feet long from nose to tail, your nightmare come true, but this giant creature has learned to detect landmines by scent. At a minefield, which is full of metal objects, while a human with a metal detector can clear just about 20 square meters a day, a rat can clear 20 times as much, just  y detecting the scent of explosives not the metal.

The rats, 100% reliable, are paid in bananas, peanuts, avocados and apples, and they don’t need body armour because they’re too light to set off land mines.

The aid group “APOPO” was started by a Belgian, Bart Weetjens, a product designer who kept rats as pets and was puzzling about how to improve scent mine detection. The rats, named HeroRats, are trained in Tanzania and deployed as required in various countries. Over 2,060 landmines found and destroyed, over 4.5  illion square meters of mine-free land cleared.


But it is not just landmines that these rats detect. It takes a trained health worker with a microscope all day to examine about 25 samples of sputum to determine if  they are positive for tuberculosis. In contrast, a HeroRat can screen 100 samples in 20 minutes, sniffing a row of samples and pausing when one is positive for tuberculosis. They are much more accurate than a human with a microscope.

The number of tuberculosis patients identified has risen by 48 percent, which means that more patients are diagnosed and treated, preventing the disease’s spread.  ast year some 580,534 samples were sniffed resulting in the saving of some 16,000 lives. The handlers grow attached to the rats and recognize each of them by face  popo pampers the rats, which get better health care than most Angolans.

The rats work only a couple of hours a day (they get hot in midday), and they retire at age 6 when they become less dependable. So the HeroRats spend their golden  years nibbling on avocados and hanging out with their handlers. When the time comes, the handlers lay them to rest in a rodent cemetery, with several people present  o pay respects.

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